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Plans to build eco-friendly homes in Knowle West

The We Can Make housing initiative has moved a step closer to building affordable and sustainable homes in Knowle West: at the end of June 2020 the We Can Make team submitted plans to Bristol City Council to build the first two homes!

We Can Make is a collaboration between KWMC and local residents. We‘ve been working together since 2016 to develop new ways to meet housing need in the community. For the last six months, architects have been working with local families to create the designs for the first two homes.

The We Can Make homes are a bit different from what’s usually offered by commercial house-builders because residents and the community have been closely involved in their design. Residents and the wider community were clear about what they wanted:

Homes that are genuinely affordable: the rent for the We Can Make homes will be set at no more than one third of average household income for Knowle West, and the homes will be owned by a community land trust, so they will be affordable in perpetuity. (Usually “affordable housing” is defined as costing just 20% less than full market rate, which makes it still unaffordable for many people).

Homes that enhance the character of Knowle West that are high quality and help create landmarks the whole community can be proud of. The designs for the first two homes are from award-winning architect practices Studio Bark and White Design, and involve using innovative design and construction methods.

Homes that are good for people and planet: the designs have strong environmental credentials. For example, the home designed by Studio Bark uses 50% less carbon to make than the average UK new home. The designs also make space for nature by including green roofs, a roof garden, bike storage and planting that encourages biodiversity.

Homes that create local jobs: We Can Make is about much more than just delivering housing “units”. It is equally about supporting the wider economic regeneration of Knowle West. Using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), We Can Make is working to develop community fabrication space KWMC: The Factory as a neighbourhood housing factory. Training for local residents and tradespeople is already underway. For example, 15 local people have been taking part in workshops to learn new digital construction skills.

The first two We Can Make homes are for John and Toni.


John’s Story

John has lived and worked in Knowle West for many years. We Can Make has submitted a planning application to build John’s home – a one-person, one-bedroom house built on a micro-site in the rear garden of an existing council house, where Bill and his son live and will continue to live.   John and Bill didn’t know each other before getting involved in We Can Make. They have got to know each other through community events and the proposed approach helps them both:

Bill explains: “My garden is very big and too much for me to look after. This helps me out because I’ll have a much more manageable garden and someone close by to help out if me or my son need it. I like the design [of the We Can Make house] – I think it’s clever and it will work well for us. I love the roof garden too. It means we both have a bit of our own space.”

John says: “I’m in temporary accommodation at the moment, living in a shepherd’s hut. The We Can Make home is brilliant because it’s a secure home of my own I can afford and in a place where I can be close to my family and work. I’ve got construction skills so I can help build it.”

Architects Studio Bark have worked with both John and Bill to develop a design that meets John’s needs for flexibility, storage, and outdoor space, whilst giving both households their own access and privacy, including a hidden roof garden for John.  The house exceeds National Space Standards for a one-person one-bedroom home: it may be built on a ‘microsite’ but it’s not a micro-home.

Toni’s Story

We Can Make has submitted a planning application to build a home for Toni and her daughter. Toni currently lives with her mum and step-dad in Knowle West, where she was born and grew up. Toni has recently had a baby and it is getting a bit crowded in the family home. The new We Can Make home for Toni and her daughter Amancia will be built in the back garden of her parents’ council home.

Toni explains: “I’ve recently had a baby. I want to stay close to my parents who are helping with childcare, but I also want my own space. They have a big garden where we’d like to build a new home for me and my daughter.”

Toni’s mum Mandi says: “Now Toni has Amancia they really need a bit of space of their own but they could never afford a place normally. This is perfect. I really like the design [of the We Can Make house] – it’s nice and green and blends in. I get to keep a good size garden and am nearby to help out with the baby. Everyone wins.”

Toni’s home is designed by architects White Design as a single storey two-bedroom home, with kitchen, bathroom and open-plan living space. The home has a green roof and solar panels. The home exceeds National Space Standards for a two bedroom two-person home. Again, the home will be on a micro-site but it is far from a micro-home.


Next steps

If planning permission is granted, construction of John and Toni’s homes will begin in the Autumn.

We Can Make is supported by the Nationwide Foundation and Homes England to deliver up to 16 similar homes in Knowle West over the next eighteen months. After this pilot phase, the aim is to scale up delivery to help more people in Knowle West and explore how the approach could be used to help people in housing need in other neigbourhoods in Bristol and beyond.

Help make affordable homes for people in Knowle West happen!

You can view the plans for Toni’s home and John’s home on the Bristol City Council Planning Portal. You can leave a comment about the plans – full details of how to do this can be found here.

Your voice matters – positive comments strengthen the case to persuade Bristol City Council to give planning permission for the homes. Showing your support could help to make the We Can Make homes a reality.

See if We Can Make could support you

Can you see yourself in an affordable, eco-friendly home that’s been made in Knowle West?  We have funding to support more families in Knowle West who are in housing need, such as elders wishing to downsize, families with young adult children who need more space, and those caring for relatives.  If you’d like to chat about whether We Can Make could help with your housing situation, e-mail or drop us a message on Facebook or Twitter (@WeCanMakeHomes). Our team would love to hear from you! 

Get involved in building!

We’re looking to put together a team of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and builders of all kinds to help build the homes. We’ll use “modern methods of construction” to create homes that are eco-friendly and innovative as well as affordable. You can register your interest via this online form or e-mail if you have any questions.


We Can Make is a collaboration between Knowle West residents and the digital arts charity Knowle West Media Centre.  We Can Make is supported by The Nationwide Foundation and Homes England.

Image: artist illustration of John’s new home, showing how it fits into the back garden of Bill’s home.  

Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

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